Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have raised concerns that the increase in turbulent air emanating from the 2023 cars is contributing to less on-track overtaking.
One of the primary goals of the new regulations introduced at the start of last year was to enable cars to follow more closely to entice more passing opportunities.
The overhaul appeared to have had the desired impact in the opening races as the grands prix in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia witnessed consistent swapping of positions up and down the field.
However, overtaking has been drastically down in the same two events this year.
Bahrain saw only 30 changes of position occur – less than half of the amount in 2022 – while Saudi Arabia’s number dropped from 38 to 33 despite Leclerc and Max Verstappen starting down the order.
Sainz, who trundled home sixth in Jeddah, has been particularly outspoken in his concerns that an underlying problem from the old generation of cars has resurfaced.
“In dirty air, these cars have got a bit worse compared to last year, probably adding downforce and the new regulations,” the Spaniard said after the race.
“They are starting to become a bit like the old cars where the dirty air is becoming a limitation and today it wasn’t easy to pass.”
With the engineers possessing more background knowledge of the technical rules compared to a year ago, it was a widely expected outcome that more downforce would be extracted for 2023.
Sainz’s comments, however, also refer to a regulation change that was imposed on all the teams to combat the porpoising problem that emerged early last year.
Following complaints from several teams and drivers about the bouncing, the FIA introduced a technical directive for the second half of the 2022 season that tightened the rules on flexible floors.
Further alterations were imposed for 2023 that ensured the height of the floor edges on all the teams’ cars was raised by 15mm.
Sainz has not been alone in his apparent notion that the changes implemented potentially have had a negative impact on the overall racing product.
Although Leclerc upheld a noticeable pace advantage in the opening race and out-qualified Sainz by five-tenths in Saudi Arabia, a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his Control Electronics allocation meant he started several places behind his Ferrari partner.
While the mid-race intervention of the Safety Car put him on the tail of his team-mate, Leclerc was unable to find a way past, eventually electing to bring the car home.
Leclerc has agreed with the view of Sainz that the topic of dirty air is likely to became a prevalent discussion point again based on the early evidence of F1 races in 2023.
“I could have gone a bit faster, but when I was closer than a second to Carlos [Sainz], you felt the turbulence of the car in front of you,” Leclerc added.
While Ferrari endured a dismal weekend in Saudi Arabia, the Italian marque’s driver pairing weren’t the only ones to register negative thoughts on the matter after the race in Jeddah.
Although Verstappen was able to utilise the blinding speed of the Red Bull to fight back from 15th place to second, the reigning champion highlighted that he was able to gather the impact dirty air had on his RB19 when following other cars through the high-speed corners.
After the DRS zone on the start-finish straight in Bahrain was reduced in length for this year, the German outlet AMuS has suggested that one possible short-term fix would be to extend the DRS zones at other circuits until an alternative longer-term solution can be identified.
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